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3 Ways to Empower Female Engineers

Today, women account for 46 percent of the total U.S. workforce, but only 16 percent of all senior-level tech roles. When we consider the percentage of women in software engineering positions, that number goes down to just 14 percent

The underrepresentation of women in tech is not a recent revelation, although there has been little progress in closing the gap between male and female counterparts within the industry. In 1990, the percentage of women in the software engineering industry was 12 percent. That was 30 years ago.

Like many, my career path wasn’t always straightforward. In high school, I considered going into a law profession before I took my first computer science class–a decision that opened a world of possible professions in STEM. I had always loved math, but a technical role wasn’t something I strongly considered before then; in part, because of the strong correlation between men and tech positions. 

After 15 years in the field, I’ve had firsthand experience in just how strong that correlation is. Being a woman in a predominantly male industry comes with its own set of challenges, which I’ve had to navigate throughout my career. Now, as the director of engineering at Capacity, I plan to use my position to empower more women to enter this field, and I encourage all business leaders to do the same.  

Here are three ways management can get on board with setting women up for success in technical roles. 

 

1. Diversify your team

When I joined Capacity, there were very few females on the engineering team. In less than two years, we’ve more than tripled that number. 

Software isn’t created for one type of person, which means the team building that software shouldn’t be either. Diversity has proven to boost company culture, productivity and innovation; and, if that alone isn’t a selling point, companies with better gender diversity on executive teams were 25 percent more likely to have above-average profitability.

Organizations have to make diversity a priority. In my role, my primary goal is to ensure the different dev teams work in harmony so we can build a high-quality and scalable solution. To do so, we need a fully inclusive team of engineers, which is why I work very closely with our HR manager to diversify the engineering team as much as we can for new roles.

Managers can build a more diverse team by setting internal milestones when it comes to hiring and recruiting, developing a comprehensive diversity and inclusion plan, or simply fostering a culture where everyone feels recognized and appreciated. These little initiatives can make a significant impact on an organization’s workforce. 

 

2. Provide women with a support system

Last year, CNN suggested there are four fundamental areas women need to evaluate before joining a company: representation, pay, health and job satisfaction. While I agree these are crucial components to consider, I would argue that there is a fifth: support. 

Support can come in many forms, both through words and actions. When organizations show support for their employees, it significantly impacts the positive nature of their culture. Not only does support improve trust, but it demonstrates commitment to the wellbeing of your people. To empower women in technical roles, organizations should implement a strong support system.

At Capacity, we’ve started a club specifically for the female engineers, which meets on a monthly basis. The purpose of this group is to provide a safe place to talk, share and connect with each other. We want them to know they have friends at Capacity and that they can feel comfortable bringing up technical questions or talking about personal issues. Our hope in uniting these women is that they can rely on and uplift one another. 

 

3. Let them share their stories 

Finally, to truly empower women in tech, you must allow them to inspire other women to step into the industry. Being an advocate for female engineers means providing them with avenues to share their stories and help other women navigate their own careers.

To start with, make sure women have a prominent voice both inside as well as outside of the company. Take a chance on women in leadership positions, and make sure they are represented on the company’s board. Allow them to mentor or speak on event panels and develop their own professional networks. Give them every opportunity they need in order to succeed and, in turn, help other women succeed.

While things are getting better, there is still work to be done on closing the gap between the men and women in technical roles. By making a conscious effort to support female engineers, organizations can pave the way for a significant shift in the current tech landscape.


About Tal

Tal Barak-Manela is the director of engineering at Capacity. With nearly 15 years of experience in the industry, she has vast experience in UI/UX implementation and design in web, mobile and desktop applications, specializing in user-friendly interaction and visualization of big (high dimensional) data.